A new study using data from Vets Now has shattered the myth that GDV is almost always a death sentence for dogs.

The research, which looked at case notes from more than 70,000 dogs presenting at Vets Now emergency clinics and hospitals, found that the survival rate of dogs who undergo surgery after being diagnosed with GDV is as high as 80%.

Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV, or bloat) is a life-threatening condition in dogs in which their stomach twists and distends with gas.

The study — part of a project entitled VetCompass which is led by the Royal Veterinary College — has shed fresh light on GDV that may alter perceptions of the condition and, hopefully, lead to an increased survival rate for dogs struck down with it.

GDV bloat can pose a serious danger to dogs
Large breeds such as Chow Chows are more likely to suffer from GDV

“Four out of five dogs that were operated on survived. This simple statistic alone can change how vets view the prognosis for GDV cases.”

Dan O'Neill RVC veterinary epidemiologist

High Survival Rate

Of the 77,088 emergency cases in the study, 492 had GDV, representing 0.64% of the caseload. Around half of the owners of the dogs presented alive chose to pursue surgical treatment. Of those, almost 80% survived to discharge.

Amanda Boag, clinical director at Vets Now, said: “GDVs are one of the classic emergency cases, and they have a reputation as being highly challenging.

“This study shows just what a good survival rate can be achieved in emergency practice. It provides emergency vets with a useful evidence base that will help them communicate with owners at a stressful time.”

Dan O’Neill, RVC veterinary epidemiologist and VetCompass researcher, echoed those views.

He said: “Four out of five dogs that were operated on survived. This simple statistic alone can change how vets view the prognosis for GDV cases.

“This study shows surgery can often be successful, which means more dogs can potentially be given an increased chance of survival by having it.”

He added: “There aren’t many true emergency diseases in veterinary medicine, but GDV is one of them. Therefore, it is important we raise awareness of the condition and its presenting signs, so owners recognise the condition as soon as it strikes.

“GDV doesn’t offer the luxury of time to wait and see what happens.”

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The epidemiological study also revealed that pure-bred dogs were more than five times more likely to get GDV compared with crossbreeds.

Increased body weight was also strongly associated with increased odds of GDV. Dogs weighing more than 40kg were significantly more likely to suffer from the condition than dogs weighing less than 10kg.

Dan O’Neil added: “The study also highlighted high predisposition to GDV in certain large and giant breeds and emphasises the importance of setting this condition as a welfare priority in these breeds.”

It’s hoped the research — the latest of more than 25 VetCompass studies published so far — will help vets predict which breeds and age groups are most at risk from GDV and, more importantly, assist them to make better-informed decisions about surgery.